The closure of a register office service has been described as a bitter blow for residents.

Seaham Town Council opposed Durham County Council's decision to transfer its local office for the registration of births, deaths and marriages to neighbouring Peterlee.

The move is part of the county's £400,000 overhaul of the region's Registration Service. The proposal to close Seaham's outstation came when it was revealed that the appointment-only office had been used "very irregularly'' over the past four years.

The Financial Secretary to the Treasury, Ruth Kelly, has now upheld the county's general proposals, including the shutting down of the Seaham service.

The move brought a swift reaction from the town council, where a spokesman described the decision to remove yet another valuable service from the community as a "bitter blow for the residents".

He said the move was all the more surprising as it came at a time when the town's population was increasing and during a development boom which will bring 1,000 new homes and improved shopping and office facilities.

The spokesman said: "The town council had hoped the Minister would accept that the extensive regeneration under way and major investment in Seaham is of such a scale that the proposal to close the registration service should at least be put on hold, if not delayed indefinitely.''

But in a response from the Treasury the town council's plea was rejected and the office will close tomorrow.

In a letter to the town council, Ms Kelly said it was her view that the extension of the registration service's opening hours in neighbouring Peterlee would lead to significant improvements for the wider community.

Being located in first floor premises, the Seaham service, she said did not have the required accessibility and she added that under the new scheme home visits would be available for anyone who would have difficulties in travelling to Peterlee.

However, Ms Kelly did offer some hope for the future.

She said that the county council had confirmed that it would be willing to reconsider the provision of the registration service in Seaham following the completion of the housing developments.